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We Are Ready! Interview with Men's National Coach Tibor Kapànek

In anticipation of the World Championship, which will take place from June 21–29, 2024 in Visp and Raron, we spoke with Tibor Kapànek, the coach of the Swiss Men's National Team, about the development of street hockey in our country and his expectations for the tournament.

How has Swiss Streethockey developed in an international comparison over the past few years?

Since Switzerland last participated in a World Championship in 2019, we can only rely on the experiences from many preparatory games against the Czechs and Slovaks. These games have shown us that we are on the right path in Switzerland and are getting closer to the top of the world.

To gain more international experience, more international contacts (games, tournaments, World Cup or European Cup) would be desirable, also in Switzerland. This would also help limit travel abroad.

After the "sports abstinence" during the Corona period, various factors contributed to the further development of our sport:

  • With the recruitment of more foreign players by Swiss teams, a new style developed, the quality of the game increased, and so did the competition.

  • The infrastructures have been improved, with Kernenried, Belp, and Oberwil-Zug installing plastic surfaces that enable faster and more technically demanding play. Fortunately, other clubs are following this trend.

What are the strengths of your team?

We are a TEAM. A team composed of very young players who are physically and athletically strong, and "older" veterans. The boys are very motivated and will give their best performance at the World Championship.

How was the World Championship preparation?

Our preparation began two years ago. With a wide squad of 42 players and 5 goalkeepers, we held numerous training days, participated in two tournaments in the Czech Republic in the summer of 2022, and played twice in Pilsen against the Czech Republic and Slovakia in February 2024.

In May 2024, after the Swiss Championship, we formed the World Championship squad with 3 goalkeepers, 9 defenders, and 13 forwards. This was followed by training sessions every weekend, and on June 20, we will set up camp in Visp to then play the opening game against the USA on Friday, June 21, 2024.

What are the goals for this year's World Championship?

Hosting the World Championship in our own country is a unique opportunity for everyone interested in this sport. Therefore, we want to excite the spectators with our game and create the best possible advertisement for street hockey in our country.

The opening game against the USA is an important benchmark and can significantly influence the further course of the tournament. We are counting on the strong support of the spectators to help us achieve our minimum goal – reaching the quarter-finals. With a bit of luck, an even better placement might be possible.

Who is the favorite for the 2024 World Championship?

The favorites include the top street hockey teams in the world, namely Canada, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and the USA. If another team wins the World Cup, it would be a great surprise. The Greeks, Finns, Italians, and hopefully also we Swiss, who are fighting for a semi-final qualification, should not be underestimated.

What does it mean for the World Championship 2024 to take place in Switzerland? Does it bring additional pressure on the team?

A World Championship in your own country always raises great expectations from the team, the audience turnout, and sustainability. The examples of Sierre (2003) and especially Zug (2015) triggered euphoria, as many young people found access to this sport – not least through the convincing performance of the Swiss national team. Why should Visp and Raron be exceptions?

The expectations of the players are also high, which means there is a certain pressure on them. However, I consider this "normal" and manageable. The squad includes, in addition to the young players, four players who have already played in the 2015 World Championship in Zug. Their valuable experience benefits the entire team.

It seems important to me to shake off the initial nervousness as quickly as possible and to enter each game with great will and fighting spirit. Each game represents a new opportunity and it must be seized.

Ursign und Peter R. Hofmann


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